Date: 16th January 2004
Game played: Oasis ( Schmidt Spiele ) BGG Id: 9027

I had just received a new order from Adam-Spielt and was itching to play this new game from Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum. An English edition is due out shortly from Uberplay, In Oasis you are the head of a Mongolian family, trying to control areas of land and acquire resources to make best use of the land you control. There are four types of land: oases, steppes, wasteland and the camel routes. Associated with each of these is a type of resource: wells for oases, horses for steppes, ovoos (stone mounds filled with treasure) with wasteland, and goods for the camel routes. The land and resources are represented by tiles which are acquired through the play of cards. Each player in turn makes an offer of up to 3 cards and again, in turn, players choose which offer they wish to take. The card offer is important because the number of cards offered determines how many cards you draw back into your hand (the more cards offered, the FEWER cards you get replenished with). Also the more valuable the offer the more likely it is to get picked early by the other players and the order in which the offers get picked by the players determines the turn order for the next round. So the more valuable an offer you make this round, the better placed you should be in the next round to grab the most valuable cards. However, your hand diminishes in size if your offer is more than one card, thus reducing your ability to make valuable offers in future. I like this mechanic a lot.

As each player picks their cards, these are then swapped for the appropriate land or resource tiles, with the land tiles being placed on the board to form areas you control and the resource tiles being retained unseen by the other players until the end of the game. This occurs when the last oasis, steppe or wasteland tile is taken or when the camel routes are completely filled by camels. Scoring is basically the number of tiles of each land area (for oases, steppes and wastelands) you control multiplied by the number of resource tiles you hold for that type of land. To this is added your single largest area of camels multiplied by the number of goods tiles you have. The player with the highest score being the winner.

We all enjoyed this very much, although the theme could have been about anything really. While playing, you don't get the feeling of actually being a Mongolian family head. However, the gameplay is clever with lots to think about and it plays pretty quickly. Although I referred to players having a hand of cards, this is a blind hand (actually a face down draw pile with cards drawn being added unseen to the bottom of the pile) so you don't have any control over the type of land/resources that go into your offer, only the number of cards. As the cards are not all of the same value, there is some luck in drawing the "good" cards for your offer. Also, you may have a very valuable offer down on the table but the first and second players in turn order are not interested in those types of land/resource, so you don't get the payback in terms of turn order for the next turn that you hoped. Some may not like this lack of control but, when it happens, you just have to groan and get on with it. In our game, the two Marks and John fought for supremacy of the camel routes, while Nige concentrated on oases and steppes and I ended up with a scatter-gun approach that failed hopelessly. Due to the multiplier effect, you need to get a balance between the land size and resources; its no good building up a big oasis if you have no or only one well. Mark K concentrated on steppes and horses and managed a huge 72 points in that one scoring section. Added to his sizeable caravan of camels, this enabled him to grab a pretty convincing win. There were some cries of disgust when he took one play back a bit late and we all reckoned this ought to invalidate the victory. However, he did play a good game. Definitely one to play again soon now that we've got the mechanics and tactics familiarised. Good stuff.

Mark K
Mark G

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